Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am a motorsport fan. Not only do I watch as much motorised racing as I can, but I am currently racing as well. Over the years I have seen many pretty racecars that have stuck in my mind. Then there are those machines that are memorable for completely different reasons. I am referring the unique designs that shocked the motorsport world when they debuted. Here are My Favourite Quirky Racecars.
Tyrell P34 – six-wheeler
This must go down as one of the most recognisable Formula One cars of all time. The Tyrell outfit launched this Ford-powered P34 model for the 1976/7 season. Uniquely, the car used four small wheels up front – all of which steered. The idea was to reduce front end lift and reduce drag as caused by larger wheels. Naturally the contact patch of rubber was increased as was the area available for braking, as all four front wheels had brake discs fitted. The car’s finest moment was achieved when the team’s two drivers Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler claimed a 1-2 at the Swedish GP in 1976. Here’s a great video of Depailler in action at Monaco.
Brabham BT46B – fan car
At the time that ground-effect cars were all the rage in Formula One Brabham designer Gordon Murray came up with an alternative. The BT46B, or fan car as it was known, utilised a large fan at the rear of the car to extract air from underneath. The resultant low pressure zone sucked the car to the ground providing high levels of aerodynamic grip. Brabham claimed that the fan was for cooling purposes (as they would) but discontent voiced by other teams meant that the fan car’s competitive life was short-lived. It did achieve a victory at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix.
Before the Brabham had been introduced to F1, an American team built this odd-looking device. The Chaparral 2J used a similar concept to the Brabham but it coupled the fan concept with ground effects to generate a reputed 1,5G of lateral grip. Remember, this was in the early ’70s when rubber compounds were not as advanced as they are now. The boxy car was developed to race in the CanAm series where it proved quick but unreliable. After just one season, and no doubt countless complaints from rival teams, the 2J was withdrawn from competition.
Porsche 959 Paris Dakar
This may not be the most unique racecar but can you imagine the look on spectators faces when they saw a 959 trundling through the deserts of Northern Africa? After a failed attempt to enter the world of rallying, Porsche decided to take on the Paris-Dakar Rally. Its 959 supercar was the “ideal candidate”, according to them, to challenge the pukka off-road machinery purpose-built for the famous race. The German makers got it right, too, when it clinched a 1-2 at the event in 1986.
Volvo 850 Estate Touring Car
At the height of the BTCC in the mid-90s there were several good reasons to tune in, not least of all the on-track action. Many manufacturers were involved and the highlight for me was Volvo’s 850 Estate. Initially it was thought that Volvo chose the wagon variant due to its marketability as it was unique in the field of saloons. The reality is that the longer roofline of the station wagon provided better aerodynamics, the extended television and print exposure was a fortunate side-effect. The cars driven by Jan Lammers and Rickard Rydell were not extremely successfully but they were extremely popular.
It was supposed to be the next generation of IndyCar design but the concept wasn’t accepted by the series’ organisers. The Deltawing project was given a new lease of on life when Nissan came on-board and the team responsible for designing the car were accepted as an entrant in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race held earlier this year. An extremely narrow front track and an absence of any horizontal wings gives the Deltawing a radical appearance in a sea of otherwise similar race machines. Sadly the Deltawing, which it has to be said was not very competitive, did not finish the endurance race as it was punted off the track while being lapped by a faster car.
Here are some of my other favourites: